My question pertains to two passages. The first one, 1 Peter 2:13-14 reads (NKJV),

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good (emphasis added).

The second, Romans 13:3, reads (NKJV),

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same (emphasis added).

What does it mean for the government to "praise" those who do good in these passages, contrasted with punishing those who do evil? What would be examples of such in first-century Rome or elsewhere? Thanks!

  • What does your own research - or thought - suggest it might mean to "praise" those who do good? Aug 27, 2022 at 0:36
  • @RobbieGoodwin Probably either a) that praising those who do good involves simply exonerating/not punishing them or b) actively rewarding those who do good.
    – The Editor
    Aug 27, 2022 at 12:44
  • Thanks and never you mind no "probably." What does your own research suggest it might mean to "praise" those who do good? I expect others share my sorrow at having included "or thought…" and still, where did you get the idea that praising those who do good involves simply exonerating/not punishing them, or actively rewarding them? To be more blunt, what research have you done, and how far did that get you? Aug 29, 2022 at 22:33
  • I see merit in this question, + 1. Jan 15 at 19:22

5 Answers 5


Consider the NLT translation:

For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority — whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.

For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.

Peter and Paul are each telling the Christians to fit into whatever society they happen to be living in and to obey its laws (implicit is that doing so doesn't violate God's laws).

Just as the ancient Israelites were chosen to set an example to the world about the effects of following, or not following, God's literal physical laws, the spiritual Israelites (Christians) are also chosen to set an example of following the spiritual meaning of God's laws.

To do so, they must appear to be good, honest, citizens of whatever country they happen to be living in. If they appear to be rebellious or resentful of civil authority, other people will see them as trouble makers. If they appear to be respectful citizens, other people will see them as good people, and as a result might be inspired to copy them.


The Roman Law was one of the most advanced legal systems of its time, emerged through democratic processes led by Roman politicians. Its original trace back to 450BC when a pivotal moment occurred: the inscribing of laws onto 12 bronze tablets known as "The Twelve Tables". These tablets marked the initial step towards safeguarding the rights of all citizens and providing a framework for addressing grievances through precisely-worded written laws accessible to everyone. As a result, the Roman legal approach became a model followed by many subsequent civilizations, persisting even into the present day.

Despite the hate from the Jews towards the Romans, it did not excuse disregarding Roman law. Across societies, a social contract existed among people to maintain stability. In this context, God's role as a covenant keeper underscores the importance of adhering to this social contract - akin to the Roman Law. Failing to uphold this binding agreement would render partial obedience to God rather than full submission to the covenant.

When Peter and Paul urged the Jews to comply with Roman Law, they emphasized that it not only punished the evildoers but also recognized and upheld the virtuous. This stance reflected the law's fairness in its application to ordinary people. While exceptions may arise, the enduring principle remains for exceptions exist in every legal system.

  • Not bad Vincent, although I don't see any quoting of bible verses. Nevertheless, + 1. Jan 15 at 19:18
  • @OldeEnglish - Indeed, my answer would be better with a verse that aligns with my collective understanding of the Lord's demand for fairness, righteousness and submission to authorities. I am yet to find a verse that is able to capture the essence of my answer. Once I find one, I will edit my answer accordingly. Jan 15 at 20:12

Since all people have the knowledge of good and evil, even non-Christian government authorities can tell when their citizens are at least making an effort to live in accordance with their laws. Therefore, Christians should usually have no reason to keep from being in peaceful contact with the authorities. While non-Christians probably don't ask for wisdom from the Holy Spirit, they can often tell good intentions from bad.

Remember this verse: Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

Because of the above verse, as long as we abide by the laws of the land, we should simply ask the Lord to help us to avoid the appearance of evil, and not be afraid. Among our many advantages as Christians, we certainly can (and should) ask God for wisdom, and then have faith, considering this verse:

James 1:5 ESV: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

His wisdom can certainly help to guide our conversations with ruling authorities.

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Aug 31, 2023 at 4:05
  • Nice to see that you utilized the use of paragraphs here, but the "Romans" verses reference could have been a paragraph in itself, starting with the "bolding" of chapter and relevant verse numbers, followed by the "block-quoting" of the verses themselves. With regard to the "wisdom", you could have quoted James 1:5,6, where you should note that the "wisdom" is specifically asked of God and should be prayed for through His Son and not the Holy Spirit, but then I'm not of the "Trinitarian" belief. Nevertheless, it's another upvote from me. Jan 15 at 19:15

What would be examples of such in first-century Rome or elsewhere?

Acts 18:

12 While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia,

Gallio was a Roman governor of Corinth.

the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. 13“This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.”

Traditional Judaism vs Paul's new teaching

14Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you.

Gallio sided with Paul.

15 But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law—settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” 16So he drove them off.

Gallio drove off the enemies of Paul.

17 Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

Sosthenes was punished and Gallio let them do it.


took Sosthenes — The successor of Crispus, as chief ruler of the synagogue — And probably Paul’s chief accuser; and beat him


"What does it mean for the government to "praise" those who do good?

Matthew 28:18

"And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." ESV.

The ultimate government is of the Father.

Ephesians 4:8

"When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."

Jesus acts/acted in the authority given Him. The picture here is redolent of a Roman general at the head of a celebratory procession passing beneath a monumental arch to commemorate a victory.

From Romans 8:34

"..Jesus..who was raised-who is at the right hand of God,..".

The ultimate praise is Christ Jesus raised to be at the right hand of the Father.

One forerunner of Jesus' ascension and enthronment is Joseph. Joseph sold for 20 pieces of silver [Gen 37:28-29] and Jesus sold for 30 pieces of silver [Matt 26:15].

Joseph unfairly imprisoned [Gen 39:11-20] and Jesus' trial also featured false witnesses [Mark 14:55-59].

The LORD was with Joseph [Gen 39:2-3]. Joseph's master saw this and that the LORD was causing all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favour in his master's sight and he made him overseer of his house.

Despite a setback [Gen 39:20] and being forgotten about [Gen 40:23] Joseph pleases Pharaoh [Gen 41:37]. Pharaoh praised Joseph, "Can we find a man like this,"in whom is the Spirit of God?" Gen 41:38].

Pharaoh give great gifts [he gave great gifts to men] including Pharaoh's own signet ring [Gen 41:42].

Thus Joseph is positioned next to Pharaoh, much as Jesus having "endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God". [Hebrews 12:2].

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.